Article by Samantha Pregenzer, from Simply Organized.
Well, this may rock a few boats but that’s not the intention behind this one. It’s not directed to my professional organizer community. Its sole purpose is to reach people who need help decluttering or getting organized and have been hesitant to hire (or even contact) an organizer because the main obstacle though is money.
Here’s the disclaimer…so we can get this out of the way. ha! For years in this business, I’ve heard it’s a no-no to talk about pricing. Every professional meeting I attend includes a reminder about it – at the top of the meeting agenda, it’s mentioned as “housekeeping” or “rules”. I’m not sharing pricing details to rock our industry’s boat…because I absolutely respect what everyone in my field does….and really, each of our charges VERY differently based on the type of organizing we do. So as a simple disclaimer, what I am sharing is being explained to help those who may be interested in hiring an organizer and wondered how much it costs, how the process works, and explain ALL the things we do from the point you complete that contact form to the end result of a beautifully organized space….in essence, how we justify that invoice at the end of the project.
My job is interesting in that people sometimes think I’m a cleaning lady or an interior designer. I’m sure others in my field can relate to that. An organizer is something totally different – we deal with your stuff, not your floors, toilets, sinks, counters, etc. BUT some of us do in the process of working with you end up doing design work OR cleaning. Personally, in my business, I do both services. We clean the space we are organizing and the spaces directly surrounding us as well. I am sharing this because often times I’ve heard people try to compare our pricing to that of a housecleaner. It’s a very different job.
I’m able to discuss this topic in detail and with confidence because I’ve been an organizer for 10+ years. I have decluttered and organized hundreds of homes. All sorts of residential spaces. For all sorts of people and situations. I’ve been a member of NAPO for 6 years and have positive, collaborative relationships with countless organizing colleagues. I’ve been “in the trenches” for a long time doing the hard hard work and have seen the industry change in this amount of time…especially over social media. I’ve been asked to speak to my organizing community multiple times – honored, humbled, grateful for each invitation. What I am sharing comes from MY experience as a seasoned organizer so you can bet it’s going to be real.
You can also bet I’m not perfect with everything and even running my own business is tough. I’m a much better organizer than a business owner. I’ve had to learn pricing models and tested out all sorts of pricing methods all by my lonesome. Why? Because no one in my industry will talk numbers, remember? lol! Anyway, I’m simply sharing from my personal business experience and pretty sure it’s on point after all this time!
And after you’re done reading, I hope you DO reach out for help! It will be well worth your investment!
With all that said, let’s get into it!…
A professional organizer’s pricing first and foremost is going to depend on a few factors:
- HOW LARGE THEIR COMPANY IS
- THE SCOPE OF YOUR PROJECT
- WHERE YOU LIVE
- HOW THEY STRUCTURE THEIR BUSINESS / CONTRACTS
Experience is the top reason pricing can be low or high. Lesser experienced organizer rates range anywhere from $50 – $100 per hour. Seasoned, well-experienced organizers can range from $125 – $500 per hour. That rate comes from experience and skill. Think of this as similar to a great interior designer or contractor. Someone who is efficient and highly skilled/connected will charge a bit more but will be worth every penny. While you may think opting for someone lesser-priced will be sufficient, I’ve seen many cases in which a client ended up paying more, in the end, to have someone else come in to repair gaps or issues.
One little side story – I am always a cheerleader of new organizers. But one time I had the terrible experience of having to tell a client the shelving they paid $xxxx for wasn’t going to work with their end goal. We had to start from scratch. The shelving was limiting, not adjustable, and free-standing. It stood only 6′ tall in a garage that was about 15′ tall. Total waste of space and they had 4 children with a TON of garage contents to organize. They ended up investing 2 fold what they would have had they hired someone more experienced from the get-go. Again, not to shoot down that organizer by any means, but it certainly cost this family a lot more money than planned. Sometimes paying for experience is well worth it!
When I was starting out, I charged $50 per hour. After about a year and 50 or so projects under my belt, I raised that to $75 per hour. Since then my hourly rate has increased. (Won’t share my exact rate but it’s over $100 per hour) The last time I raised my rates, which was about a year ago, I felt I was at the top of my industry niche in terms of pricing. Pretty sure I am still there. It’s rare someone questions the hourly rate I quote because I can back up that fee with experience. One look at my portfolio or just a few minutes into a consult, a potential client knows I am experienced, can deliver an end result they will love / it’s sustainable, and they want to hire me and my team.
Specialties can also affect pricing. For example, my dear friend and colleague, Kacy Paide of The Inspired Office, only organizes office spaces. It’s a specialty and she should charge a special rate based on that. There are organizers who only organize photos or papers or home computers / digital devices or even estate sales.
Depending on an organizer’s experience and specialties, you can see how hourly rates will differ. It’s also going to depend on the factors outlined below too…for example, where you live; big city, more rural small town. But this gives you an explanation right out of the gate that pricing can vary and in general is due to experience.
HOW LARGE THEIR COMPANY IS
I worked alone for many years and was happy to do so. There are still projects today I choose to work on alone. I enjoy the solitude and get hyper-focused….barely talking while I work. But if I’m ever going to realize bigger dreams and goals for this business and scale it, I have to hire people. Rates will go up when more team members are on the project. So if you are quoted for a team of 3 organizers, the price could be $250 per hour or more. Again, this all depends on the experience of those team members as well. Seasoned crew members can make up to $100 per hour…sometimes more. Or they can make as little as $35 per hour if in training.
THE SCOPE OF YOUR PROJECT
The scope of your organizing project is a factor. If we are doing a whole house declutter, the invoice may be high due to the number of hours and team members. If you are designing a custom closet, organizers generally charge a consulting fee to work with you and interface with the closet company to help you design the most efficient space…and then you may hire them to help organize it once installed. This is a HUGE range in pricing because of the scope of work in a pantry vs the scope in a custom walk-in master closet or decluttering a large 3-car garage – it’s a vast difference in space, how many team members, and honestly….how quick you are to make decisions when it comes to decluttering items.
An organizer’s niche also matters in pricing. If you’re organizing papers in an office or photos on your computer or you’re unpacking a 1 bedroom or 10 bedroom home…organizers specialize in many different categories. Personally, I am a residential organizer for families and I am heavy into stuff. Lots of stuff. It’s a physical job that moves quickly. I don’t spend hours upon hours sorting through papers. Or photos. Maybe one day when my body can’t do this anymore…but point is, an organizer’s niche could be a factor in pricing as well.
WHERE YOU LIVE
Rates for organizers in metropolitan areas are higher than in small towns. That’s not to say there aren’t small towns that compete with the big cities. I used to live in Little Rock and it’s a VERY sophisticated city. It’s small but there are high-end designers I came to know while living there. They are charging what a lot of designers in my current SF area charge. But I have seen a big difference in pricing for organizers based in NYC vs in SF. Just something to keep in mind when you are hiring an organizer.
HOW THEY STRUCTURE THEIR BUSINESS / CONTRACTS
Like any small business, owners choose to run their business how they see best. For a long time, I tried flat-rate pricing. I felt like it took the guessing out of how many hours I would be there – clients occasionally gave off a vibe of worry that I may be there for hours upon hours. So if I felt confident I could complete the project in 6 hours, for example, I quoted them my hourly rate x 6. It worked pretty well for a while, but once I hired team members, hourly was easier.
Organizers also sometimes operate their business as if they are interior designers. I mean, really – everyone should have a client contract. I do and it took me a while to get on board. For a long time my thought was “I’m just an organizer – what I do is so black and white. I’m not an interior designer with big custom furniture purchases, freight charges, etc”. Anyway, sometimes organizers ask for a retainer if they are working on a large project that could go on for a while. Especially if it’s a design project for a custom closet…if they are doing any work from home they may discount their hourly rate, but this could drive up costs.
Some organizers charge a consultation fee…some don’t.
Some organizers charge a travel fee…some don’t.
Again, depends on how they run their business, and hopefully, the organizer you connect with is clear and upfront with any pricing so there aren’t surprises at the end. Nothing worse than a surprise on your invoice you weren’t expecting.
HOW THE PROCESS WORKS
The reason I want to share a quick view of how the process works is because you’ll then understand our pricing even better. There is MUCH more involved than simply showing up to help you declutter. A good organizer will also teach you how to maintain the space, how to declutter another similar space on your own so they don’t have to come back and how to work through emotions when letting go of items. There’s work that happens before we arrive AND after we leave. It’s definitely a relationship and it gets intimate. That’s one of my favorite parts of this job!
A good organizer also spends time reading books, attending conferences and seminars, maybe working with a business coach, and definitely investing in more education. And staying on top of current trends in the industry.
In my business, I can share how the process works (which will soon be in video format – yay!) but it begins when you complete the contact form. The first steps are always the same:
- Contact form is completed
- I email you to set up a phone consult
- We have a 20-minute phone consult (complimentary)
- If after the call we feel it’s a match, we schedule an in-person 45-minute consult (fee included). During the consult we narrow down your hot zone and where I’d begin working with you.
- I come home to pull together a quote
- Once the quote is approved, we schedule a day/time to be there
From there the process can go in a few different directions. If it’s a simple declutter of an office, I schedule myself to be there. But if there is design or material involved, I have more work to do from home prior to our appointment. And I may also need to come back for a deeper dive into your volume of stuff, to take measurements and photos, etc.
Could look like this:
- I get to work on a game plan – my game plan is key to the timeliness of our projects. Everything is scheduled and structured before we arrive. If team members need to join me, I schedule them accordingly. If my haul team needs to be on stand-by, I make them aware of the day, possible time, location, and even the size of the truck needed for haul away.
- If a product needs to be sourced, I spend time in the office pulling options I then share with my client for approval.
- When approved, we place orders and pick up materials.
- If we are designing an Elfa space, I schedule myself time to go to TCS to design, and then there is a phase of going back and forth with the client for edits before purchasing.
- Once these are purchased, we need to have material delivered and maybe our painter is scheduled beforehand (demo and touch-ups)…
- Then we need to schedule the installer. I do some installs myself, but recently hired our own great installer who works a bit quicker so I can work behind him getting the space organized.
As you can see, it’s not as simple as decluttering and organizing. There’s a lot more. Don’t forget my time in the office at the end of a project reconciling product receipts, invoicing, following up with the client, paying team members, etc. It’s a big job and each and every client needs the best service so I take great care in delivering a full-service experience.
I spend a lot of time planning organizing projects from right here…not necessarily in a client’s home…
And like any business, there’s a cost of doing business. Some of that affects pricing too.
PERKS OF WORKING WITH A PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZER
Had to share some of the fun perks of working with a professional organizer! From special discounts to the intimate, fun relationship you will build – I promise you won’t regret having hired one.
SPECIAL TRADE DISCOUNTS
Most experienced and seasoned organizers will have connections to special discounts. Personally, I am a trade member with The Container Store – this gives us special discounts all year long, which I always pass down to our clients. I never up-charge (some organizers do!). Since design and making spaces beautiful is also at play in SO | Home, I became a trade member of all the Pottery Barn brands, including West Elm and Williams Sonoma. I’m a trade member with Wayfair. And a trade member with Restoration Hardware. And a trade member with Studio McGee.
I stay on top of sale trends. The Container Store, for example, pretty much runs the same sales cycle each calendar year. I plan for these in advance (even their friends and family event…I have employee friends who hook us up each fall) which gives me a chance to follow up with Sally about that pantry she wanted to organize last fall, but nothing pantry related was on sale at that time.
One of my goals is always to save a family money. Families grow and change and it’s inevitable that a system I set up in 2017 may not be working the same in 2020. It’s normal but I plan for it in advance and follow up with them. I’d like that done for me too if I was working with a designer-type.
EXPERTISE & SAVING MONEY
When you hire an organizer, they will know exactly which product works in your space… depending on your habits. This means you won’t be buying containment over and over because it is failing you. Expertise in this area matters.
LEARNING NEW TECHNIQUES AND HABITS
You’re going to learn how to declutter and organize in a way that works for you. New systems, new habits…organizing is a great skill to have. I also work with clients on time management and goal setting as well. They go hand in hand with organizing.
HOW YOU’RE GOING TO FEEL!
You are going to feel incredible when the process is behind you! All of those items that were previously taking up space or inducing bad memories/reminders…with them behind you and a fresh new space you’re going to feel inspired and lighter. Happy and content. Motivated. You will love opening that garage to see the entire floor and pull your car in. You will feel excited to open that cabinet or closet door or drawer. You will know exactly where to find the scissors or that photo or that shirt you wanted to wear last summer but forgot about.
A little of what the Internet says…
Just for the heck of it, I did a quick google search to find out what the going rate is. It was all over the map. Anywhere from $30 per hour to $375 for a 3-hour session.
According to Angie’s List, members reported paying as much as $1,500 to $5,000 for major home organization projects, such as unpacking and organizing an entire home after a move, or tackling multiple rooms including the living room, bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, basement, and spare room.
My sweet friend and colleague, Geralin Thomas, wrote this great article in 2018 breaking down costs based on where you live in the US. She polled many many organizers around the country who were pretty open with their rates – nice to see!
I’d love to hear any questions you have and am more than happy to answer it here – so leave them in the comments or send me an email if it’s something more personal. Hope this answered some of your questions or is encouraging you to take the leap and contact an organizer to finally help you with a space or two.